With This Is Our Music, Ornette Coleman’s historic early quartet shifted slightly but significantly to include the great Ed Blackwell on drums, taking over for Billy Higgins. But while Blackwell brought his own texture and feel to the group, This Is Our Music seemed sprung from the same source as Coleman’s first two Atlantics, The Shape of Jazz to Come and Change of the Century. The leader’s alto sax and Don Cherry’s pocket trumpet could achieve rough-hewn yet somehow impeccable unisons on brisk swing inventions like “Kaleidoscope,” “Poise,” and “Folk Tale.” And Charlie Haden galloped along: Even as Coleman’s pieces floated free of conventional harmony, the bassist’s walking lines revealed an unshakable understanding of some highly elusive music. His articulate bowing on the out-of-tempo “Beauty Is a Rare Thing,” blending with Blackwell’s subtle mallets, brought out a new, even more exploratory dimension in Coleman’s work.
One might perceive a matter-of-fact, no-apology title like This Is Our Music as an implicit riposte to detractors, and Coleman’s quartet had them. His Atlantic recordings might have polarized the jazz world of the time, but up until his death in 2015 at age 85, his creative convictions never wavered. “Blues Connotation” became more or less a canonical jazz tune. The catchy “Humpty Dumpty”—not to be confused with Chick Corea’s song of the same name—was one of three Coleman compositions played by Pat Metheny on his 1984 trio classic Rejoicing (with Haden and Higgins). “Embraceable You” was that very rare standard in Coleman’s output, and like Charlie Parker before him, he took from the Gershwin ballad what he needed from it, no more and no less.